Judith Christensen and her husband William travelled to Washington DC in 2009 with the MBCN team to lobby Congress for the first National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. And, they continue to advocate for greater awareness and understanding of metastatic disease. Judith shared this letter that her husband just sent to their local newspaper–a heartfelt statement of the reality and needs of the metastatic community from a concerned husband. (Doesn’t get any better than that!)
I read your column about featuring stories dealing with breast cancer in your newspapers during the upcoming breast cancer awareness month. As you noted most people know someone who has been affected by breast cancer. They certainly are already aware of breast cancer. One in eight women (and a not an insignificant number of men) will be diagnosed with breast cancer. 30% of that group at some point will have to deal with breast cancer that has metastasized. That is the real killer. Cancer in the breast is not lethal; it is when it works its way to other parts of the body (liver, brain, bones), that it becomes fatal.
My wife, Judith, has lived with metastatic breast cancer since her initial diagnosis almost 8 years ago. She is being treated at Dana Farber, participating in a clinical trial for almost 7 years. She is fortunately a statistical outlier since life expectancy averages about two and a half years post metastatic diagnosis. She, like all those with metastatic disease, will be on one form of treatment or another for the rest of her life. There is no time free from treatment. There is no cure.
In 2009 we worked with others in the metastatic breast cancer community to raise awareness about this dark corner of the larger breast cancer community. Working with members of congress we were able to have October 13 designated as National Metastatic Breast Cancer Awareness Day. I have attached a copy of the Resolution as passed by the United States Senate for your information and use. Many state and local governments (including here in Plymouth) passed similar resolutions.
It is so important that this group of people dealing with metastatic disease not be isolated or ignored. Additional research funding and funding for treatment should be focused on the needs of this group. A lot has been done to raise awareness of breast cancer in the broadest sense. More needs to be done to deal with the deadly and fatal side of the disease. I would urge you to focus some of your efforts on raising awareness about metastatic breast cancer during the month of October. It is a job that needs doing.
Thank you for focusing on the issue of breast cancer. Please take it a step further and deal with this critically important issue as well.William Christensen 26 Forest Edge Plymouth, MA 02360 (508) 209-1011 firstname.lastname@example.org